Monday, October 03, 2005

The east face of Mt Barney

In May 1966, John Tillack solved one of the great climbing challenges in southeast Queensland, making the first ascent of the 300 metre east face of Mt Barney. He and Ted Cais had climbed the first part of the route but Cais decided against continuing the route next day. A week later, 26 May, Tillack returned, this time with Donn Groom and Les Wood. Wood, who was suffering from a hangover, remembers little of the climb, not even mentioning it in his diary. The face had been surrounded by an aura of invincibility ever since Logan and his team first commented on it during the first ascent of Mt Barney in 1828. But fresh from the recce the previous week, Tillack was confident and the team of three were soon at the previous high point below a large cave, as Tillack later recounted:

Unfortunately, I now remembered a trick [Walter] Bonatti used on the Dru, so I made a line of slings weighted with karabiners and flung this out so that the karabiners jammed behind a small tree. After appropriate incantations to the Gods of the mountain, I swing out into space and then, using the rope, climbed up to the tree. I then discovered that the tree was rotten.
The remaining four pitches followed a scrub-filled chimney to the summit. It has become something of a rite of passage for those who value ‘traditional’ or ‘adventure’ climbing, as it is now called.

Pictures: (from top) John Tillack [Ted Cais collection]; Donn Groom [John Larkin collection]; Les Wood [Les Wood collection].

Ted Cais’s introduction to climbing came at an early age with Bert Salmon introducing him to previously unknown scrambles on the crags and cliffs of southeast Queensland. He read about the exploits of Ron Cox and Pat Conaghan, immortalised in the pages of the University of Queensland Bushwalking Club’s annual journal, Heybob—a collection of inspiring tales of the early exploration of the heights in southeast Queensland and beyond that have impacted on generations of climbers since. But it was Les Wood and later, Rick White, who influenced him to break away from the ethic where the leader never falls and to push himself to the forefront of Queensland and Australian climbing. He is pictured above at Easter 1966, loaded up for a walk into the High Tops at the Warrumbungles on a Brisbane Rockclimbing Club visit.

Picture: Hugh Pechey collection.